The Incredible Growth of Web Usage [1984-2013]

In the three decades since the Internet evolved from an experimental band of academic and government computers into a globe-spanning network of interconnected systems, the amount of time spent online has grown to rival (or even exceed) the time spent living offline. We rely on the Internet to host our websites, provide entertainment, and even manage our social obligations. Personal computers, tablets and smartphones have made the connected life a reality, and the number of folks pursuing it has exploded.

This explosion is due in no small part to the extended application of an axiom known as Moore’s Law. While ostensibly a prediction about semi-conductor innovation rates, this bit of prophecy from Intel co-founder Gordon Moore has come to represent the doubling not just of processing power, but of computing power in general. Moore’s Law has become a battle cry for the tech industry, where today’s cutting edge is already too dull for tomorrow’s mustard.

As more and more things become possible on the Internet—socializing, grocery shopping, even cornering the real estate market—there comes an immediate call to make doing so the standard. In the mid 1980s, you might spend all afternoon visiting your friends before dropping by the bank and grocery, and then go out to dinner and a show after. And forget starting an online business or finding someone to host it.

Today, your business, banking, shopping, and chat with your friends are all readily handled from your tablet or phone. If you’re not in the mood for a fancy outing, Netflix and a quick Internet-ordered pizza take care of the evening’s entertainment needs—and all of it can be accomplished in less time than it takes to say “The Internet made me a hermit.

Despite having existed for far less time than inventions such as the automobile or television, the Internet towers over them when it comes to reaching record-breaking numbers of people. It took the automobile nearly 130 years to break a billion units, and even after 95 years of  a more-or-less constant love affair with television, today’s world has just under 1.5 billion television sets.

Planned obsolescence and technological evolution notwithstanding, those numbers remain surprising when compared to the Web usage of 2.7 billion folks who use the Internet every single day (many of them for at least three hours at a time and on a variety of devices). And by 2020, says at least one leading technology expert, literally everyone will be online. Whether this prediction is accurate or merely a flight of fancy, one thing is certain: it’s an issue that will no doubt receive lots of attention—on the Internet.

The Incredible Growth of Web Usage 1984-2013

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